London: An early Bronze Age burial chest containing cremated bones and material dating back 4,000 years has been excavated on Dartmoor, and the collection could be one of the most important archaeological discoveries in the last 100 years, experts have said.
Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) said that the stone-built chest or “cist”, which was used for the burial of ashes, was discovered at Whitehorse Hill in Devon, one of Dartmoor’s highest peaks.
Cremated human bones, human remains and other items were found including leather, a woven basket or bag and amber beads preserved in peat.
“This is a most unusual and fascinating glimpse into what an early Bronze Age grave goods assemblage on Dartmoor might have looked like when it was buried, including the personal possessions of people living on the moor around 4,000 years ago,” the Daily Mail quoted Jane Marchand, senior archaeologist for DNPA as saying.
Cists are common in the south-west of England and elsewhere, with 200 known on Dartmoor alone, but they are rarely found with their original contents.
Experts said the one discovered on Whitehorse Hill may have been better preserved because it is the only known example set within a peat mound.
The cist was first discovered more than ten years ago when what appeared to be its end stone fell out of the peat mound, which had been concealing it, and since that time, the peat has slowly eroded away from the sides and the top.
After several attempts to protect the cist, a scheduled monument, the decision was taken by DNPA and English Heritage to excavate it in order to recover any surviving archaeological and environmental information before it is destroyed.
The excavation, which took place in August, was the first excavation of a Dartmoor cist for nearly 100 years and involved experts from Cornwall Council``s historic environment projects team, with assistance from English Heritage and specialists from the University of Plymouth.